Many of us tend to imagine professional fighters as enormous, intimidating men with bared teeth and bulging tattooed biceps.
It seems hard, therefore, to place Tiffany van Soest, in such a category. Indeed, the 28-year-old Californian simply looks like a strong, toned athlete – and not one you’d be afraid to meet down a dark alley.
Appearances can be deceptive, though. Tiffany is, in fact, a Muay Thai kickboxer. Dubbed the “Time Bomb” due to her explosive style, she turned professional in 2011 and is now a four-time Muay Thai World Champion and GLORY World Super Bantamweight Champion (the world’s premier kickboxing league). In short, not someone you’d want to be up against.
TRAIN for HER spoke to Tiffany to find out why she loves fighting, why more women should get involved in combat sports and how, despite her confidence in the ring, she suffers from anxiety.
What do you love most about fighting, Tiffany?
I love that fighting reveals your purest self. When it’s all on the line and there’s a living, breathing threat to your well-being, fighting brings out your most deeply-rooted qualities. You learn a lot about who you are and what you’re capable of when you’re in a fight.
Personally, it definitely gives me a sense of confidence I might not have had otherwise.
What benefits are there to combat sports?
The mental benefits are tremendous: you gain mental strength to overcome and push through, you increase mental agility so you can think more quickly and problem solve and you also achieve the mental focus to be able to remain in the moment.
Physically the benefits are the same: you gain strength and dexterity and you become just plain powerful because you’re training yourself to be a weapon.
What’s your training like?
It consists of functional strength and conditioning, technical kickboxing skill development, partner drills, sparring and recovery.
Is female fighting different to male fighting?
Women are physiologically hardwired to be more emotional than men and this definitely causes the fights in the women’s divisions to have a different kind of intensity at times.
Is there much sexism in the industry?
Things have improved over the past decade, but fighting is still a sexist industry. Although there are more female bouts taking place than before, women are still not getting paid as much as men across the board of combat sports.
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Why should women get into martial arts?
I see zero reasons why women shouldn’t get into fighting! It’s perfect for a release or exercise as well as a great way to learn self-defense.
I recommend getting involved by going to a local gym and taking an introductory class.
What would you say to women who are afraid of getting hurt?
You can always work at your own controlled pace and you don’t have to spar. Your training is what you make it, so you can eliminate the elements of training that have a higher risk for injury.
Are you confident away from the ring?
Truthfully, no. I have social anxiety in settings that are unrelated to ‘work’ or fighting, be it crowded places and social events or being in groups and interacting with strangers.
I am not completely body confident, either. Generally, overall, I would say I’m more confident than not, but I do still have insecurities about my body.
What makes your anxiety better or worse?
I don’t feel anxious when I’m fighting and training, but being famous makes it worse because sometimes I’m approached by people and caught off-guard which triggers the anxiety.
What would you say to other women who struggle with body confidence?
I would tell them that we all have the power to be healthy – do what it takes to get your body to a point where you feel confident.
It’s all about taking the first step in the right direction. Find a physical activity that you enjoy and commit to making it part of your daily routine and you’re on your way.
Also, breathing is great for combatting anxiety. I find taking deep breaths and practicing mindfulness very helpful.
What are your targets right now?
Currently one of my goals is to retain and defend my GLORY Kickboxing world title.
Another major goal is to train and develop the ‘arts’ side of martial arts and use my skills to create fusions between martial arts/fighting and mainstream culture in the form of art, music and entertainment.
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